Food & Recipes

We Taste Tested 3 Hard Sparkling Waters—And Here Are The Results

Did your favorite make the cut?

Flavored sparkling water is a hugely popular as a healthier alternative to soda. These beverages give a hint of flavor and the bubbly carbonation that so many crave without all the calories and sugar. With that in mind, the newest trend in the adult beverage market is alcoholic sparkling water. Yes, now you can sip a LaCroix-like drink in lieu of a cocktail.

Most of these drinks have about 4% to 5% alcohol by volume (ABV), so in terms of alcohol content, it’s similar to downing a light or standard beer. Miller Lite clocks in at 4.2% ABV, while Miller Genuine Draft is 4.7% ABV, to give you an idea. A more direct comparison for hard sparkling waters may be hard sodas or malt beverages such as Henry’s Hard Soda, which has an ABV of 4.2% and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which has an ABV of 5%.

While these beverages taste great, they also come loaded with calories and sugar. Hard sodas typically have around 200 calories and around 30 grams of carbs, thanks to their high sugar content. If you’re watching your waistline or are looking to cut down on your sugar consumption, these beverages —although delicious — are probably not your best bet.

If hard sodas are the liquor industry’s answer to Coke and Mountain Dew, then hard sparkling waters are their answer to LaCroix and Bubly. Just a hint of flavor, and way less carbs and sugar.

I received samples of Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water, and I tried them out along with two other brands, White Claw Hard Seltzer and Truly Spiked & Sparkling, for comparison. Here’s what I thought of all three brands, complete with letter grades.

Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water

Grade: A

Alcohol Content: 4.2% ABV

Priceapproximately $1.99 each

Available Flavors: Strawberry Kiwi, Passion Fruit and Lemon Lime

Calories: 88

Carbs/Sugar: Less than 2 grams of carbohydrate/0 grams sugar per serving

Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water was definitely my favorite of the three brands I tried. I gave all three flavors a try, and the Strawberry Kiwi was my top choice, followed by Passion Fruit. I didn’t love the Lemon Lime flavor, but I think that’s more of a personal preference for fruitier flavors than anything against it.

What I liked about Henry’s is that the alcohol was virtually undetectable to my taste buds. If someone poured it in a glass and served it to me as a LaCroix, I would have no reason to doubt him. The fruitiness was noticeable but subtle, too. With the lowest calorie count and being the only sugar-free option of the bunch, it was easy to stand out as the clear winner.

I brought some of each of the three brands to a barbecue, and my tasting companions agreed that Henry’s was superior.

 

White Claw Hard Seltzer

Grade: B

Alcohol Content: 5% ABV

Price: approximately $1.99 each

Available Flavors: Ruby Grapefruit, Black Cherry, Natural Lime, Raspberry

Calories: 100 each

Carbs/Sugar: 2 grams of carbohydrate/sugars per 12 oz. serving

I was particularly excited to try White Claw’s Black Cherry flavor, because I love black cherry soda. However, it was a little disappointing: slightly medicinal and had a bit of a strange aftertaste as well. I also tried the Natural Lime flavor, and that was a lot more to my liking.

My husband told me he thought that the Natural Lime flavor was pretty comparable to Henry’s Hard’s Lemon Lime. Since the latter has a slight caloric/carb-content advantage, he said go with Henry’s if he had to choose. Ultimately, though, he felt that both brands were reminiscent of a gin and tonic with a twist of lime — something he definitely saw as a positive!

 

Truly Spiked & Sparkling

Grade: B-

Alcohol Content: 5% ABV

Price: approximately $1.99 each

Available Flavors: Wild Berry, Colima Lime, Pomegranate, Grapefruit & Pomelo, Blueberry & Acai, Raspberry & Lime, Lemon & Yuzo and Sicilian Blood Orange

Calories: 100 each

Carbs/Sugar: 2 grams of  carbohydrate/1 gram of sugar per serving

I tried both the Truly Colima Lime and Pomegranate flavors, and while I certainly didn’t dislike them, they were my least favorite of the three hard seltzer brands that I sampled.

Although the calorie content was identical to White Claw’s, and with one gram of sugar to White Claw’s two grams, I actually felt like Truly’s offerings were the most cloyingly sweet of the bunch. They also had a bit more of a noticeable alcohol taste to them.

Still, I would not turn one down if offered on a hot day at a pool party. I would also be interested in trying some of the more exotic-sounding flavors, like Sicilian Blood Orange or Grapefruit & Pomelo.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, there’s not a huge difference in taste, nutritional profile or price between the three brands. While I don’t see hard sparkling waters replacing my usual wine or beer anytime soon, they’re definitely a nice addition to the mix — especially at end-of-summer parties, as they’re a refreshing and novel option.

If you like regular sparkling water and are looking for a low-calorie alcoholic beverage, I recommend giving them a try.